White House

White House uses comedy to start sexual assault conversation

In this June 16, 2015 file photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus in Washington. Although Biden has yet to make a decision on a run for the presidency, his advisers say the discussions taking form in the last several weeks are serious enough that the vice president and his associates have started gaming out mechanics like fundraising, ballot deadlines and an early primary state strategy.
In this June 16, 2015 file photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus in Washington. Although Biden has yet to make a decision on a run for the presidency, his advisers say the discussions taking form in the last several weeks are serious enough that the vice president and his associates have started gaming out mechanics like fundraising, ballot deadlines and an early primary state strategy. AP

The White House is putting a comedic spin on a serious subject, hoping to shed more light on the problem of sexual assaults on college campuses.

To launch “It’s on Us” Action Week in which it hopes to rally more men to speak out against sexual assault, the White House has teamed up with the YouTube channel, CollegeHumor, to make a public service announcement – complete with a bear interrupting a beery guys’ night.

As actor Rob Riggle – known for playing Mr. Walters in “21 Jump Street” - goes to get a drink, he’s startled by an aggressive bear in the kitchen.

Jake Johnson – known for his character, Nick, on FOX’s show “New Girl,” – attempts to reassure Riggle, telling him the bear only attacks one in five people - a statistic commonly used to refer to the number of women who will be sexually assaulted before leaving college.

The public service announcement is aimed at directing attention to the alarming statistic, especially among men, Johnson told reporters on a conference call arranged by the White House.

“I think there is this code that I know of as a ‘bro,’ “ Johnson said. “That is you kind of look the other way. I think that is so tired and so boring… If you know something’s going on upstairs in your frat house and you don’t do something, you’re just as bad in my opinion.”

Spencer Griffin, executive producer to CollegeHumor, said there were challenges in trying to mix humor with such a serious topic.

“We really wrestled with how to use comedy,” he said. But he said they are proud of the end result.

“Anytime we at CollegeHumor have the opportunity to use humor as a tool to activate people around a serious topic, it’s a great and fulfilling thing,” Spencer said.

“It on Us” Action Week will run from Nov. 8 through 14. The campaign started last year in partnership with Generation Progress to reach out to college students to end sexual assault.

The ultimate goal of “It’s on Us” is to empower students, university administrators and the community at large to “change the culture” to end sexual assault, said Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the White House.

As a part of the 2015 campaign, Vice President Joe Biden will visit the United States Naval Academy, Clemson University in South Carolina and Morehouse College in Atlanta.

It’s not the first time the “It’s on Us” campaign has used celebrities for the cause.

At the campaign’s launch last year, several actors participated in public service announcements, including Kerry Washington from ABC’s “Scandal,” Matt McGorry from ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” and Josh Hutcherson from “The Hunger Games.”

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